Friday, January 23, 2009

the obama effect

Obama is obviously inspirational, but we wondered whether he would contribute to an improvement in something as important as black test-taking. We were skeptical that we would find any effect, but our results surprised us.

Vanderbilt University management professor Ray Friedman, one of three authors in a study currently undergoing peer review that suggests "Obama’s election could increase the sense of competence among African-Americans, and it could reduce the anxiety associated with taking difficult test questions." As reported in Study Sees an Obama Effect as Lifting Black Test-Takers in this morning's New York Times.

In brief:

Researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

The research was conducted in the context of earlier studies that showed test performance among Americans of African descent was compromised when the test was introduced with questions that called attention to their racial identity.

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